10 Sep 2014

Making a buzz in Auckland

From New Zealand Society, 3:30 pm on 10 September 2014

Bee hive
A view of the hives in Victoria Park, as well as a close-up of the bees entering the hives – images courtesy of Sarah Smuts-Kennedy and Taarati Taiaroa.

Aucklanders are being encouraged to create their own pollen hotels to help 160,000 hungry honey bees currently foraging for food in the CBD.

Intrigued by just what these hotels might be, Lisa Thompson went down to the hives recently and met the artists to find out more.

The Park

Victoria Park is currently playing host to six bench top beehives and their honey bees, as part of a social sculpture called The Park.

A collaboration between artists Sarah Smuts-Kennedy and Taarati Taiaroa, The Park is an artwork designed to question the distinctions between public and private space. But rather than being a static piece, serving as an illustration of an environmental issue, the project is calling for public participation to generate what Sarah describes as “agency, a sense of community and public ownership.”

In order to achieve this, local residents are being encouraged to plant new or locate existing food sources for bees on their properties. It may be as simple as a few pots on a deck, or leaving a vegetable garden to go to seed in a backyard. They are then asked to photograph these food sources, termed pollen hotels, and mark them on a digital map.

It’s estimated the bees forage for food up to six and a half kilometres from the Victoria Park hives and each new pollen hotel created within this radius is marked on the map. The map will then draw a line between each pollen hotel and the hives.

“The idea is for Aucklanders to collectively transform their city into a pollen park,” says Sarah. “By plotting pollen hotels on the map, it will assist us in visualising the amount of food available for these bees in our urban environment, the bees’ potential flight path, and our collective action.”

The pair have also been contributing their own pollen hotels to the project in the form of pasture paintings.

Planting flowers to attract bees
Left composite: Pasture paintings located on Gladstone Road in Parnell – image courtesy of Sarah Smuts-Kennedy and Taarati Taiaroa, Right: The hives are bench-top hives, which require no lifting for the apiarist.  The lids have also been planted up in order to provide extra food for the bees.

Dotted around the city on verges, the paintings are geometric shapes that have been planted with bee-friendly plants including mustard, calendula and nasturtiums. 

“It’s bringing a bit of wild back to Auckland,” says Sarah. “A lot of the plantings in the city are beautifully done but they’re quite formal and now there’s this little bit of wildness back in the city.”

The project in its current iteration will remain in Victoria Park until March 2015, at which time those Aucklanders who have plotted their own pollen hotels to the map will be invited to come and collect some of the honey they helped to make.

The Park was initiated by Sarah Smuts Kennedy and Taarati Taiaroa and supported by POP — a Waitemata Local Board arts initiative.

The Park project team
Left: Beez Thingz apiarist Julian McCurdy, alongside artists Taarati Taiaroa and Sarah Smuts-Kennedy, Right: The six hives in the south-western corner of Victoria Park. They sit on a hexagonal pasture painting that has been planted with pollen and nectar rich food for the bees.

See also: The Backyard Beeteam on This Way Up